Saddam a better provider than the U.S.

The Iraqi government announcement that monthly food rations will be cut by half has left many Iraqis asking how they can survive.

According to an Oxfam International report released in July this year, "43 percent of Iraqis suffer from absolute poverty," and that according to some estimates over half the population are now without work. "Children are hit the hardest by the decline in living standards.”

Iraq's food rations system was introduced by the Saddam Hussein government in 1991 in response to the UN economic sanctions. Now the U.S.-backed Iraqi government has announced it will halve the allotted basic foodstuffs because of "insufficient funds and spiraling inflation."

IPS highlights the point that the Iraqi government is unable to supply the rations with several billion dollars at its disposal, whereas Saddam Hussein was able to maintain the food program with less than a billion dollars.

Meanwhile the Washington Post reports that the growing costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the worldwide “battle against terrorism” stands at nearly $15 billion a MONTH!


No room in the Inn for Iraqi children

The United Nations has called for immediate action to assist about two million Iraqi children affected by poor nutrition, disease and disrupted education.

"Iraqi children are paying far too high a price," said Roger Wright, Unicef's special representative for Iraq, in a statement. "We must act now."

Unicef, the UN's children's fund, said young Iraqis were caught up in violence, with hundreds killed or injured. An average of 25,000 children a month have fled violence or intimidation this year, with their families seeking shelter across Iraq, Unicef said.

Only 28 per cent of Iraqi 17-year-olds have sat their final exams, while safe drinking water for children remains scarce, according to the UN.

Despite the urgent needs of Iraqi children, Unicef received only $40 million towards its $144 million appeal for Iraq this year, Veronique Taveau, a Unicef spokeswoman, said in Geneva.

"A new window of opportunity is opening, which should enable us to reach the most vulnerable with expanded, consistent support," Wright said. "Iraqi children are the foundation for their country's recovery ... We continue to owe them our very best in 2008 and beyond."


Family Care Foundation restaurant livelihood project

Greetings from Banda Aceh in Sumatra, where a few years back, upwards of 300,000 lost their lives to the Asian Tsunami!

You may recall that after helping with emergency relief in the weeks immediately after, our FCF partner here, Family Care Indonesia, then concentrated on replacing fishing boats for those who had lost their livelihood.

Another livelihood project that Family Care Foundation undertook was building a restaurant that a coastal village will benefit from. USAID is finishing up a new coastal road which the restaurant is situated on, offering a very convenient and gorgeous ocean view.

With business from the passenger buses alone traveling this highway, we have every reason to believe that the profit margin for the restaurant will top $4000 monthly, certainly a major windfall for this village. So for our relatively small social investment, this will be the equivalent of a $50,000 grant to the community as long as the restaurant exists.

As construction began, a local well-to-do beneficiary donated 2 hectares of beach front property, so our plans expanded to create a full “recreational stop”, offering a playground, sports field, prayer room, etc in addition to the restaurant itself. The restaurant is expected to be serving food in January 2008.

Accompanying photos show the ocean view from the restaurant, the seafood theme mosaics, and the gorgeous backdrop where monkeys, orangutans, and tigers roam!

Update: See completed restaurant


EduServe Teacher Training program

Family Care Foundation's partner here in Karachi, Family Educational Services Foundation, also operates a teacher training program, EduServe. The EduServe program is designed to strengthen the local educational infrastructure by training teachers, administrators, and parents.

Teacher Training Seminars are held on weekends to make it convenient for local teachers to attend, and at subsidized prices depending on their ability to pay.

Courses conducted include:

  • Early Learning Techniques
  • Sight Reading and Encyclopedic Knowledge
  • Motivational Teaching Skills and Methodology
  • Classroom Control and Discipline
  • Group Management
  • Classroom Organization and Management
  • Time Management
  • Basic English Skills and Communication
  • Story Telling
  • Mega Skills: Character Building

Additionally, FESF produces a series of educational audio/visual materials that are widely used in schools and institutions throughout the country. Other FESF activities include music therapy for mentally and physically handicapped children, organizing activities for orphaned and homeless children, and educational seminars for parents.


Deaf Reach Training Centers in Pakistan

Instead of highlighting the "bad news" on the international aid scene, here's some "good news" from my recent trip to Asia, on behalf of Family Care Foundation:

Today I toured the Deaf Reach Training Center in Karachi, where all ages of deaf people, both male and female, receive training. (A similar school operates in Lahore and a new branch is presently being established in Hyderabad)

Most deaf people in Pakistan lack any opportunity to even learn local sign language, let alone learn 4 languages (local sign, American Sign Language, English and Urdu -- the main language of Pakistan) which they are taught at Deaf Reach. So students of all ages are making a giant leap from a totally silent and non-communicative world to one that offers them a productive life style! –Most of these students from low-income families are so hungry to learn that it is difficult to get these students to want to stop their classes, when it’s time for the next class to enter the classroom!

Having the ability to communicate allows them to develop their full potential and vastly increase their opportunities for success. The center also meets the academic and vocational needs of the deaf community, with particular emphasis on IT training, and other vocational skills, as well as social skills needed to land a job.

Through a Job Placement Program, graduates are able to obtain gainful employment whereby they can help to support their families and be self-sufficient. For example, I visited a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) branch operated wholly by deaf graduates of our Deaf Reach program, rated the number 2 branch in the whole country's KFC chain. (Hiring and training a deaf staff has never before been undertaken by the franchise, and now pther fast food outlets are likewise considering a similar approach. Keep in mind that American fast food restaurants here offering relatively high-paying jobs.)

Additionally, I met Deaf Reach students now employed by a medical firm, and others earning a living as computer programmers. Deaf Reach graduates are presently some of the highest paid and educated deaf individuals in the country.

If you're interested, you can read more at http://familycare.org/network/i04.htm


US Ranks Low in Humanitarian Aid

A new tool to evaluate governments' humanitarian spending can help countries get aid out more efficiently to those who need it, say former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Spain-based non-profit DARA. Their Humanitarian Response Index (HRI) ranks the U.S. scores a lowly 16th out of 23.

Surprised at the findings? The index is less about total funding (although, per capita, the U.S. is no world leader by that measure either), and more about how well aid dollars reach their beneficiaries.

Those principles, among other things, enshrine the goals of humanitarian aid as alleviating suffering according to need, irrespective of political goals, and in a way that supports long-term development.

For the U.S., a mediocre ranking reflects mixed performance. While funding is allocated relatively well along international guidelines, much of the country's aid is tightly earmarked for specific projects or comes as physical goods instead of cash.

It's bottom of the pack in implementing international humanitarian and human rights laws, having refused to ratify key international treaties. Survey responses also rank U.S. aid lowest in perceptions of "neutrality" and "independence" from political and strategic considerations.


The US on Humanitarian Response Index 2007

Humanitarian Response Index 2007 rankings:
1. Sweden
2. Norway
3. Denmark
4. Netherlands
5. European Commission
6. Ireland
7. Canada
8. New Zealand
9. United Kingdom
10. Switzerland
11. Finland
12. Luxembourg
13. Germany
14. Australia
15. Belgium
16. United States <<<<<
17. Spain
18. Japan
19. France
20. Austria
21. Portugal